Fr. Kevin Collins Celebrates with VIDA Graduates

Brownsville, TX

Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI Places the stole on one of the graduates

By Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI, Pastor, St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish, Brownsville, TX

Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA), a non-profit organization, has served the counties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley since 1995; and it helps the unemployed, underemployed and low income workers and their families to achieve self-sufficiency through education and training for demand occupations such as medical and technology professions.

The graduation celebration for VIDA participants was for individuals who will be graduating from Texas Southmost College! Dr. Jesus Rodriguez, President of Texas Southmost College spoke at the event along with Natasha Del Barrio, CEO of Bert Ogden Auto Group.

The celebration included Fr. Kevin Collins, OMI, a member of VIDA’s Board of Directors. “I got to put the graduation stoles on some of the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement-VIDA’s graduates from Texas Southmost College. Very proud of all of them.”

Fr. Kevin (Center) to his immediate right Natasha Del Barrio, Adela Garza, Dr. Jesus Rodriguez, the graduates

Fr. Collins said VIDA is one of several not-for-profit community organizations in Texas with similar aims to help low income individuals get the job skills needed to fill living wage job openings in their areas. It all began in San Antonio in the 1980s when a group of individuals sought ways to help thousands of workers whose jobs were lost when a Levi’s plant closed down. Called, “Project Quest,” the program helped motivated individuals with tuition and books for community college classes or vocational training in order to learn new marketable job skills. In addition, Project Quest provided counseling and mentoring which resulted in higher rates of graduation and hiring.

Fr. Collins was involved with Capital IDEA – Houston, as a leader with the Metropolitan Organization. When he moved to Brownsville to become pastor of St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish, he got involved with VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley.

St. Eugene Parish has been a member of Valley Interfaith since its beginning. As a leader with Valley Interfaith, Fr. Collins was named to the board of VIDA.

The Metropolitan Organization, and Valley Interfaith are grass-roots community organizations dedicated to developing power and leadership among citizens. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate have supported and participated in these organizations for many years in the U.S.

Over 6,000 people and their families have been helped by this program.  For fiscal year 2020-2021, a total of 464 economically disadvantaged adults were served with 56% in the 25-50 age range.  As per Economic Impact Study performed in 2020, for every dollar invested in the program there is a return of $14.74 back to the communities served.

VIDA’s program model, career counselors and case managers work closely with each individual student to address specific problems or barriers.  Thanks to support services such as childcare, transportation, and financial assistance, as well as referrals for other services, students have a persistence rate of 93% in completing their certification or college degree.

In May 2019, VIDA was one of the 9 programs in the nation chosen for a rigorous evaluation on the effectiveness for improving the skills and economic conditions of low-wage workers by Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE).

Studies of other programs using VIDA’s model have shown that the average wages of the participants make steady gains over time increasing by 100% in the first two years of employment.

Funding is obtained from local, state, federal funding, individuals and business donors and private foundations. VIDA applies and receives funding from the following entities/sources; breakdown is provided for the past 3 fiscal years.

Fr. Collins poses with another happy graduate